By: Eric Lunger
It’s been quite a year in boxing, giving fans and commentators a great deal to be thankful for. So, as we pause for the holiday and enjoy some down time with family and friends, here is my top five list — in no particular order — of boxing gratitude.
1. Anthony Joshua is on the brink of becoming a global superstar. The charismatic British fighter with Nigerian roots put on a stunning performance in April, defeating the great Wladimir Klitschko, and now the glamorous heavyweight division is ready for some exciting unification bouts. Where will fellow champions Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker fit into the upcoming mixture? What about Tyson Fury, the erratic and unpredictable lineal champ? Let’s be thankful for the exciting prospects in the heavyweight division.
2. Canelo and GGG finally squared off in the ring, even if the decision was frustrating and bizarre. A rematch is probably going to happen either in May for Cinque de Mayo or in September for Mexican Independence Day. Golovkin was in Mexico City this week, feted by media and fans alike, and teased an interviewer with the prospect of the Canelo rematch happening in Azteca Stadium. Can you imagine that fight? In front of eighty thousand fans? I’m thankful just thinking about it.
3. The WBSS Cruiserweight tournament has been really entertaining, and we have two fantastic semifinal matches to kick off the beginning of 2018. With Murat Gassiev facing Yurnier Dorticos, expect explosive power from the opening bell. And if you haven’t yet seen the Ukrainian sensation Oleksandr Usyk in action, don’t miss his fight against Mairis Briedis of Latvia. The winner of the tournament, by the way, will unify three out of the four major belts, with the final slated to take place in Saudi Arabia.
4. Against the odds, a fight for boxing purists between two of the greatest amateurs of all time is headlining a card at Madison Square Garden — The dazzling Vasyl Lomachenko against the dangerous and incredibly gifted Guillermo Rigondeaux. Some commentators have pointed out the weight difference between the two, as Rigondeaux has fought only at 122 while Lomachenko is comfortable making 130 and will most likely rehydrate far north of that weight. Fortunately, the camps announced this week that the fighters will weigh in again on fight day with a rehydration limit of eight pounds. I’m thankful for the opportunity to see these two Olympic champions square off.
5. I’m thankful that Terrence Crawford is moving to welterweight. I hope the Nebraska fighter can get some bouts on a bigger stage — no offense to my Omaha friends, but Crawford should be fighting in New York or Las Vegas. With his enormous talent, I would really like to see Terrence become a bigger star in the sport. He is fun to watch, is cerebral in his approach, can box in both stances, but he can also bang when needed. Having cleaned out the 140 pound division, let’s be thankful that we get to see Terrence Crawford take a run at the loaded welterweight class.
And finally, a thanksgiving shout out to all the coaches and trainers, especially those working in small gyms in both little and big towns, bringing young fighters along, introducing kids to this sport. You are the grassroots. Thank you for everything you do. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!